The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Migrants Murdered in Saudi Arabia … and Elsewhere

Sep 4, 2023

This article is translated from the August 25 issue #2873 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

Human Rights Watch recently denounced the massacres by Saudi Arabian border patrols of hundreds of migrants trying to reach Saudi Arabia, mostly from Ethiopia.

Dozens of testimonies by survivors establish that between March 2022 and June 2023, several groups totaling 450 women, men, and children were killed, machine-gunned, or targeted by mortar fire on the mountainous border trails between Saudi Arabia and the northern border of neighboring Yemen.

Testimonies and videos describe scenes of horror: Some people cannot be identified because their body parts were scattered. Some people were torn in two. Some reported that Saudi border guards came down from their lookout posts and beat survivors. Along with beatings and humiliations, they also reported rapes.

Among the half of Ethiopia’s 123 million inhabitants who live below the poverty line, many try to cross into Saudi Arabia, where 750,000 of their compatriots already work. The grueling journey to this country involves a short but dangerous crossing of the Red Sea from Djibouti to Yemen and the Saudi border. But upon arrival in Saudi Arabia, in addition to despicable working and living conditions, the migrants face being hunted and imprisoned. Thirty thousand of them are already detained for lack of legal papers, according to Amnesty International.

Like politicians in other countries and continents, Saudi leaders claim they want to control the “migration flow.” The poorest people among the 37% of non-Saudis whose labor maintains the wealth of the ruling family are easy targets.

These testimonies about the atrocity of the situation can only arouse indignation. But this by no means absolves Western governments. They too treat desperate human beings trying to cross borders in order to survive as if they were intruders without rights. They too push them away with contempt for their lives. The leaders of the European Union, who pretend to be civilized, are equally culpable. They have cold-bloodedly decided both to erect ever tighter borders and to reduce search and rescue activities at sea. European leaders chose to block the land border between Turkey and Greece, using subsidies as threats. They chose to subsidize migrant concentration camps in Libya. They choose to negotiate with the president of Tunisia, who chases sub-Saharan refugees to death in the desert. They choose to criminalize the acts of humanitarian organizations helping migrants.

A columnist for Human Rights Watch put it plainly: “The politics of European Union leaders and member states can be summed up in three words: ‘Let them die.’”